I know many here will roll their eyes because in the opinion of many, myself included, he has waited far, far too long to break his silence, but Secretary Mattis has finally issued a public statement regarding President Trump to The Atlantic. And he moved to contact decisively! (emphasis mine)
IN UNION THERE IS STRENGTH
I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled. The words “Equal Justice Under Law” are carved in the pediment of the United States Supreme Court. This is precisely what protesters are rightly demanding. It is a wholesome and unifying demand—one that all of us should be able to get behind. We must not be distracted by a small number of lawbreakers. The protests are defined by tens of thousands of people of conscience who are insisting that we live up to our values—our values as people and our values as a nation.
When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.
We must reject any thinking of our cities as a “battlespace” that our uniformed military is called upon to “dominate.” At home, we should use our military only when requested to do so, on very rare occasions, by state governors. Militarizing our response, as we witnessed in Washington, D.C., sets up a conflict—a false conflict—between the military and civilian society. It erodes the moral ground that ensures a trusted bond between men and women in uniform and the society they are sworn to protect, and of which they themselves are a part. Keeping public order rests with civilian state and local leaders who best understand their communities and are answerable to them.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 14 that “America united with a handful of troops, or without a single soldier, exhibits a more forbidding posture to foreign ambition than America disunited, with a hundred thousand veterans ready for combat.” We do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law.
Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that “The Nazi slogan for destroying us…was ‘Divide and Conquer.’ Our American answer is ‘In Union there is Strength.’” We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis—confident that we are better than our politics.
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.
We can come through this trying time stronger, and with a renewed sense of purpose and respect for one another. The pandemic has shown us that it is not only our troops who are willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of the community. Americans in hospitals, grocery stores, post offices, and elsewhere have put their lives on the line in order to serve their fellow citizens and their country. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square. We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution. At the same time, we must remember Lincoln’s “better angels,” and listen to them, as we work to unite.
Only by adopting a new path—which means, in truth, returning to the original path of our founding ideals—will we again be a country admired and respected at home and abroad.
That Secretary Mattis chose to compare the President to the NAZIs, which I highlighted above, cannot be ignored or downplayed. Regardless of what anyone thinks of him, especially in light of his willingness to serve as the President’s first Secretary of Defense or by keeping his thoughts to himself since resigning, Secretary Mattis is a highly educated, highly thoughtful, and very deliberate individual. His Marines called him the Warrior Monk to respectfully describe his austere, scholarly, and bookish lifestyle as a Marine bachelor. He preferred the call sign CHAOS – Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution. He despises being referred to as Mad Dog. Secretary Mattis is a sober, thoughtful, deliberative Marine and senior military leader. The choice to compare the President to the NAZIs was not made willy nilly, it was not a knee jerk turn of phrase. It was deliberate and in that deliberateness it is intended to signal to the current and retired senior military leaders, as well as to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines of the US military and all the DOD and Service civilians that the President is a clear and present danger to the Republic, to freedom and liberty akin to the US’s greatest foreign foe of the 20th Century. It is also intended to signal that those who follow him are akin to the NAZIs themselves, that they are not interested in the ordered liberty the Founders and Framers attempted to establish through the Constitution and the creation of a self governing democratic-republic. And it presents Americans with a very stark choice: you can support the United States and the Constitution and the idea of a self governing democratic-republic, no matter how imperfect, or you can support the President. You cannot support both!
No worse enemy, indeed!